Fiona Duncan introduces the Hard to Read monthly lit series with a poem by Alicia Novella Vasquez

, 6 March 2018

Hard to Read is a monthly lit series that aims to ‘promote print reading and active listening as vital meditations for our maddening current’. Organised by Fiona Duncan it is held at The Standard hotels in Los Angeles with pop-ups at Eckhaus Latta’s rEtail shop and New York’s Bridget Donahue gallery. Over the next few weeks AQNB will present a number of live streams from the series and so by way of an introduction, Duncan has selected a piece on violence and healing by previous reader, Alicia Novella Vasquez, that she prefaces below:

A Thousand Angels by Alicia Novella Vasquez. Image courtesy of the artist + Hard to Read.

Before our reading on September 12, 2017 at Bridget Donahue gallery in Chinatown, New York, Alicia Novella Vasquez and I walked around Sara D. Roosevelt park debating her last line. This would be her first reading and my first time hosting a Hard to Read in the city. 11 months earlier, I’d launched Hard to Read at The Standard hotel in Downtown, LA. Hard to Read is unusual maybe as a lit event in that it often relies on non-writer-identified people. Artists, academics, actors, activists, porn stars, musicians, models, and kids who you don’t know what they do—I like to invite people who I happen upon in the real who use language in novels ways to compose and share originals texts on stage; often it’s their first reading, sometimes even a first conscious act of writing.

Vasquez was nervous in the park and on stage you could tell, but she didn’t shy from her fear. She let it occupy her chest, lowering her voice even deeper than usual, as she read this piece on healing and her younger brother from her iPhone. I wanted Vasquez to read because she’s one of the most originally inquisitive life livers I know. Naturally intelligent, often mistaken for foremost beautiful, she sometimes models, gets romantically immersed, and is, I keep insisting, too reluctant an artist. She’s from the Bay, we met in LA, and I’ll host her again soon, as Hard to Read, as of this month, will start putting on events semi-regularly in New York, where Vasquez now lives. The last line we weren’t sure about was, “But if healing is violent then is violence healing?” It’s cut in this version, but there it is.

 —Fiona Duncan

A Thousand Angels by Alicia Novella Vasquez. Image courtesy of the artist + Hard to Read.

A Thousand Angels
by Alicia Novella Vasquez

This healing is violent. I spent years chillin jus wondering
if shit would cycle back to me. I took it all on knowing
nothing and knowing that I’d save me. Excited to save me.
Me n only me. He asleep in the other room rn on the floor.
His phone on loud playing idk what but it not a podcast n it
not lil Wayne. Maybe datpiff commercials.

I asked him about generational curses. Breaking cycles. Seeing
beyond what is. Creating. He speaks about the future a lot but
in an instance he’ll switch and almost violently pull it back… It’s
like he’s speaking hate into the dream. Fear of not being worthy?
Or am I projecting again? No he is afraid. As am I. I cannot deny
my mirror.

A Thousand Angels by Alicia Novella Vasquez. Image courtesy of the artist + Hard to Read.

Healing is violent
The digging the surfacing the re-surfacing the facing always the
facing the swallowing and the purging
The intake and the outtake
The uprooting of all evils.
Goes deeper than intimacy; seeing every color in the darkness.

My auntie said suffering is the short path to spirit
but then why are so many of my sisters dead and dying?

There’s a cow on a cliff. Stranded but not a lone.
A divine construction; it’s us after the earthquake.

The healing comes regardless. The tenacious spirit.
Broke but not broken.

He told me yesterday, “Healing ain’t violent, it is life. When the
tree dies the leaves fall n aid the soil. What really is violence other
than an attachment to something someone doesn’t like? To say
‘healing is violent’ is to say ‘healing is something I’d rather not face’
cuz nobody in their right mind wants to be accustomed to having
to face violence to overcome self hurdles. It’s jus cuz of this
attachment to words that maybe people ain’t doin the work

Every enemy has been my soulmate and every lover
has been some other shit.

Am I healed enough to revisit the pain?

A Thousand Angels by Alicia Novella Vasquez. Image courtesy of the artist + Hard to Read.

Wondering bout my baby brother. Bout how in the last stage of chemo
he was running 3 miles in under 18 minutes while scream crying in
that rain. Wondering bout how it feels to be healed. He said the hardest
part was dreaming beyond what was. Seeing himself old. Too difficult to
dream of desire, like, “lemme dream bout what I know I can have.
Lemme have this security. Lemme cling to this security.”

I read yesterday that, “The thing you face as you contemplate your future
existence in remission is not whether the damage is reversible or not (it
largely is in any case), but whether you can accommodate the fact that
healing is often a process filled with chaos, crises and violence.”

Looking at twitter n wondering bout chaos. Staring at this fucking
explore page wondering bout violence, this new face beat.
YAAAS bitch this fresh BEAT! Heavy glam looks. No matter what
won’t compare to her in her Paris blue stretch denim with the
whicker wash no pockets on the butt. Do u remember? Victoria
Secret P!NK and weed. She was my favorite version.

Hard to Read will host Lovelace on March 7 at New York’s Bridget Donahue gallery to coincide with the release of Claire L. Evans’ new book Broad Band: The Untold Story Of The Women Who Made The Internet. Alongside Evans will be writers and artists; Alexandra Marzella, Sougwen Chung, Jacky Connolly, Mimi Onuoha, Allison Parrish and McKenzie Wark.